HomeOpinion & AnalysisDemystifying the mystery surrounding DNA testing

Demystifying the mystery surrounding DNA testing

health talk:with Dr Johannes Marisa

So much talk has circled around DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing, but with little understanding of what exactly happens. I have been pestered with numerous questions pertaining to DNA testing during my practice some of which I could not find answers to. Zimbabwe has the capacity to do its own DNA testing, for such common things as paternity tests, infidelity tests and gene matching, to mention but a few. We have sophisticated testing centres in Harare and Bulawayo that major in such tests. Thumbs up to our scientists!

What exactly is DNA testing?
DNA means deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material in living organisms and a carrier of genetic material from generation to generation. DNA testing is genetic testing that is used to identify changes in DNA sequence or chromosome structure. Genetic testing can also include measuring the results of genetic changes, such as ribonucleic acid (RNA) analysis as an output of gene expression. DNA fingerprinting is, thus, a chemical test that shows the genetic makeup of a person or other living things. It is used as evidence in courts to identify bodies, to track down blood relatives and to look for cures for diseases. Usually, the results for ancestral DNA tests are 99,9% accurate.

Which tests are offered locally then?
The following tests are offered locally in both Harare and Bulawayo and it is not surprising that very few people know about their availability. It is prudent that one knows what can be done and what cannot be done. Testing is categorised as peace of mind and legal testing. Peace of mind testing is basically for one to have personal knowledge of what is happening while legal DNA testing has requests coming from statutory bodies like courts or any recognised bodies. Results are submitted to the respective bodies.

Paternity testing
This is the mostly asked about in the medical field with a lot desiring to prove the paternity of the children. There is rampant infidelity in this world and according to Tinashe Mugabe, a coordinator and scientist at Global DNA in Eastlea, Harare, there was a 63% negative result for paternity in 2019 from the tests done, of course a 7% reduction from 2018 where there was about 70%. This means 70% of men were going to keep children that were not theirs had these tests not been done.

How is the paternity test done?
Paternity tests can be done from walk-in or booked patients in Harare at the Samora Machel DNA Centre. Paternity tests can be done from as early as two months of pregnancy. This is known as pre-natal paternity testing. Blood samples are taken from the mother as well as from the suspected father. If no blood is taken, mouth or buccal swabs are taken from the suspected father. DNA fingerprinting is done and results are out within seven days. This solves a lot of the pregnancy matrix, so no more accusations and counter accusations. Post-natal DNA testing involves testing after the child is born and it involves the supposed father, child and mother. Blood can be used to identify DNA. If the mother is not available, testing can be done between the suspected father and the child. If the father is not available, two other siblings can be used and this is important for issues of inheritance where there may be disputes to be solved.

Infidelity DNA testing
This is one test that many do not know is done. Upon suspecting that your partner is cheating, you can use inner garments like a panties to profile all the DNAs there. This can be done to both men and women and profiling of DNA in a cheating wife or husband will show the partner’s DNA on the panties plus foreign DNA for the other man or woman. These tests are done locally and results are within seven days. Get to your DNA centre today!

Identifying relatives
Relatives can be identified in issues such as accidents where genes have to be matched with the survivors. Survivors can provide their washings or blood which can be used to identify victims. For a lot of accidents where numerous people perish, authorities have resorted to DNA matching for identity.
Let us all be honest and faithful. One day, technology will get you.

Till we meet again next week!
l Dr Johannes Marisa is a medical practitioner, an educationist and public health practitioner who can be accessed on doctormarisa@gmail.com.

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